Data manipulation at its finest in Google Analytics

MoreVisibility - October 27, 2010

Ever wondered how you can exclude data that Google Analytics collects from your own computer? Ever pondered over how to re-write the way data looks in your Google Analytics reports? Ever dream about changing all of your data from lowercase to uppercase? Well, you can do every one of those things and more by using filters to manipulate your profile’s data.

The catch is that you need to write your filters in a language called Regular Expressions. If you’re not familiar with regular expressions, you may want to review the blog post that I wrote over two years ago titled “Stuck Between a ^ and a $ place“. Once you familiarize yourself with regular expressions, you’ll be able to write filters to manipulate your Google Analytics data.

If you’re an administrator of your Google Analytics account, you can click on the “Edit” link next to your profile, and scroll down on the subsequent page to the section of your profile’s settings that shows your filters. This area may be blank, so click on “Add Filter” to start creating your filter.

First, give your filter a descriptive name, like, “Excluding my IP address”. Then, select your filter type, between a “Predefined Filter” or a “Custom Filter”. Personally, I like custom filters much better over the predefined ones, even to do simple filters that you can do with the predefined type – but that’s a topic of conversation for another day.

With custom filters, you can choose from a few different options, as you can see in the image below. You can exclude data, which removes data from appearing in your profile. You can include data, which will only include the data that you enter. You can change the case of a certain data point by either lowercasing or uppercasing it. You can search for a page, keyword, source, or other data point and change what it says with the search and replace filter. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can write an advanced filter to change the order of, insert data behind and in front of, and do many, many other fancy things.


If you find yourself looking for ideas or needing clarification on anything, you will find a help menu below the filter creation screen, as in this example for what you should do with a visitor IP address filter:


Before you start firing away with filters as bullets into your Google Analytics profile, do note that:

– You should definitely review my Stuck Between a ^ and a $ place blog post that describes what regular expressions are and how to work with them.
– The order of the filters matters. If, for example, the first filter listed in your profile excludes Yahoo data, your second filter won’t be able to find any Yahoo data to manipulate. You can change the filter order from the main website profile settings page.
– Filters cannot be applied to retroactive data. When you apply a filter to your profile, the data will be affected by that filter moving forward, not even one second before that moment.
– Filters take approximately 24 hours to propagate (e.g. to activate) in your profile.

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